I knew her

I called the number I found for L. There was a pause, while the lines made the long connections across the Atlantic. And then – a ring. My heart jumped. Two rings. What was it I was going to say? Three rings. I was ready to hear my old friend’s voice.

When a Midwestern drawl answered, I barely comprehended what was said. I kept on the line, listening as a pre-recorded message read off a list of extensions.

It was a company line.

Which means, of course, that the number’s been recycled. No one ever tells you that. That the new phone number you feel all shiny and happy about in your brand new home is probably from someone who died. Goddess! We pick the electronic bones of the dead.

Found a handful of photos. All of them were from one trip: our infamous Grand Canyon/birthday bash in Arizona. Most are too distant. L along the handrail by a huge backdrop. A few were taken at night, when we rented a limo to take us out to the clubs. I had a lousy camera at the time, and all of the nighttime pics are overexposed from the flash. But there’s one. One picture that shows the L I remember. We were in the car, taking some back roads to an out of the way hot spring we heard about. She’s driving, with sun glasses on. I must have told her to look at me for the pic; she turned, and in typical fashion of L at that time, she stuck her tongue out at me. That’s the picture. Not the ones of her and I trying to look grown up as we stood by the limo. Not the ones in the hats. That one, with her tongue sticking out. That’s the one that made me cry.

My brother was gone all afternoon; he’s found a band to work with and he was at his first rehearsal. When he came home, he was full of energy, full of stories about the day. I kept quiet, my responses limited to short exclamations of happiness on his behalf. It kept on that way all thru the evening: me wanting to bring all this up, yet saying nothing.

11 p.m. The last episode watched for the evening, I muted the tv. And in that heartbeat of silence, I told my brother what happened.

Not just about the phone call. About all of it. This obsession that came over me the last 48 hours. How, while waiting to make that phone call, I googled other things. Pictures and videos of my old home town. Walked the google street views from my old high school through the local village and up the hill to my dad’s house. Took a car trip along Lake Michigan. Places I’d travelled thousands of times in my youth. Places I could have driven blindfolded when I was 21.

There was little I recognized.

Buildings downtown, large skyscrapers – they’re still there. Still look the same. The lake is still there. Fair grounds: just as I remember.

But the trees were all different. Many were too tall, and now obstruct the view I grew to know as a young woman. Streets were widened. Shops had changed hands.

The more I looked, the more nostalgic I grew. It was a strange nostalgia, though. A ‘member-berry nostalgia. Because it wasn’t real. I knew that even as I felt those tugs at my heartstrings. These pictures didn’t include the heat, the humidity, the insects. The audio didn’t include the crassness, the ignorance, the bigotry. And even as I felt I’ve missed so much! I knew I hadn’t. I left because nothing ever happened.

Ended by searching my eldest brother. Figured I needed to see what info was available on him, someone I knew, before I could make a judgement on the info I had on L. Odd thing. I found a sales record of the family home in 2005. And a new address for my brother. He never mentioned selling the house or moving.

…You know, some idioms are like onions: so many layers, it takes a lot of peeling to get down to the core. You can’t go home is an idiom heavy on my mind today. Thought I fully grasped that one years ago. Turns out there was a whole other layer to it that I didn’t even know existed until it was ripped away.

I’m leaving the past behind. Letting it go. My brother agreed that, when we have a bit of extra cash, I can pay for a death certificate search for L through the state records. Just don’t know if I’ll ever hear anything from her daughter. For all I know, I was demonized in her eyes. The bad girl that led her mother astray. So I’ll rely on that cold confirmation of public records. But for me – I don’t want to lose today because I’m caught in memories of the past. So I’m snapping myself out of it. When I’m done with this post, it’s dishes and bed making, then off to the gym. Gonna run my lines for the play, and get some writing done. I’ll listen fully to my brother, engage in real conversation. Later in the week, I’ll take the metro downtown and just walk around, window shopping. Remind myself of where and when I am.

I could get that picture of L reproduced in a larger size. Get it framed, put it up on my wall. And maybe I will. But more than that, I want to write her. I don’t know that I’ll ever capture the person or entity I remember. I feel it my duty to try, though. She was and will always be someone who had a great influence over me.

And I have no doubt that I will see her again. Not in the same form, obviously. But I know we will meet again. Our friendship was one of those strange old soul things; we knew each other the moment we met in this life. It’s strange to say that, because I can’t honestly say I know that much about her physical life here. Who were her friends, other than me? I don’t know. What happened all those years we didn’t speak? I don’t know. But that…that’s surface stuff.

I knew her.

Vigil

The internet is so not free. Nor open. Searching for an old friend from overseas is frustrating, to say the least.

I have an address and land line.

I also found a death notice that claims L died at the age of 45.

Searched for an obit. All afternoon. Found nothing. Plenty of places I could cough some money up to, places that may or may not have any further info on her. No word from the message I sent out to her daughter. Found her husband, after a prolonged search. His online status lists him in a relationship with someone other than my friend.

I’m thinking of dialing that land line number this afternoon.

…Not even sure I want to know the truth. In some ways, people who live only in your memory are already dead. You think of them in terms of the past.

Keep telling myself it’s just an online mix up. One of those bullshit things that happen. I searched for her name and a death certificate; obviously, some site out there is gonna claim to have one. Thinking how silly I’ll feel if I call and she picks up. Of course she’s still there in Wisconsin. Of course she’s alive. How silly, how silly!

Yet…we’re talking about someone who was working with computers before computers became the thing. I have a difficult time believing she would have no social pages, no posts, no professional links whatsoever if she were alive.

Dead? At 45? That would make it 2010. Seven years ago.

And what does that make me? If ever you’d ask me, I would have said L was my best friend ever. Never had another connection with anyone that rivaled the bond between us. If she’s been dead for seven years…and I didn’t even know…

Can’t wrap my head around this. I’m in denial.

Want to find her photograph in my pile of memories. Look at her face. Demand her to be alive, be real.

…Goddess. I have to make that phone call.

Is it silly to mourn so belatedly?

The strange thing is, when people from your past die, a part of your memory dies. All those things we did, we crazy 20 something young women – now, maybe, I’m the only one to carry those memories. There is no one to reminisce with. The memories becomes stories, the stories become legend, the legend fades away and becomes forgotten. Somehow, thinking of L as alive – even tho we lost touch and hadn’t spoken for years, even tho we parted on less than ideal terms – it made the world a little less cold. There was someone out there who remembered me.

Now…now I have a four hour wait before I can dial the phone. A four hour wait to think, and remember.

A vigil. Light a candle, and pray like hell.

The best stories to tell

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I have a full page of stop-and-start writing that’s supposed to be an attempt at a synopsis for my script. I’m having a hard time getting beyond the first sentence. In fact, truth be told, the entire page is filled with various first sentence attempts. Synopsis writing has always been my Waterloo. Ask me to create a story, a poem, a logical argument ready to be debated in senate, and I can do it. Ask me to write a synopsis and I tank on it every time. So I’ve turned to my friend J., who reviews films for a partial living, for help. Fresh eyes, an expert hand at succinct writing – should be no problem for him.

Then there’s my CV. I’ve roughed it out to one page, and highlighted my writing credits no matter what pseudonym I used to send stuff out. Meh. While I never lie on a CV, I do add a bit of spin. My stories aren’t unpublished; they’re out for consideration at various publishing agencies. That kind of stuff (which is true; all the stories I’ve listed ARE out at publishers and I haven’t heard back). Still. I hate it. Someday I’ll have an assistant to do pesky shit like my CV and synopses.

Someday.

So today’s the day I’ve got earmarked to get back to the gym. Winter’s moved into Rotterdam. I haven’t said much about it because I’ve seen the news, and Rotterdam’s winter is so nothing compared to the blizzards throughout Europe and North America that it’s akin to complaining about a cold to someone who’s got pneumonia. The truth is we’ve had freezing rain, and freezing conditions, for several days now. I haven’t wanted to venture out because of the risk of falling – which, I find, I’ve developed a deathly fear of. But last night was dry, and I’ve a good chance today of clear sidewalks from here to the gym. And I am so in need of getting back to regular exercise that I’ve flipped: I’m sluggish, don’t want to move, don’t want to get started, and would just rather sit in my sloth for another week. Very much time to crack that mental whip and get back to it. It will help me relax, help me write the crap I still need to write, and help me get back into the swing of my regular routine.

My smoking continues to be too much. I’m holding off, here and there, from chain smoking. Keep thinking ‘is this the one that gives me cancer?’. Not a healthy place to be. I need to fill my time again with outside things: the gym, the pool, language lessons, errands. Most of all, I need to get away from my computer. I’m still so mentally there with writing it’s hard to break. And when I do break, I sit and play repetitive games until the sun goes down.

Still in a state of flux with immigration. My bro received a letter asking for a piece of paper he hadn’t included in the original packet. Everyone says don’t sweat it. I try not to think too much about it. Not too bad with that, actually. My head has focused on more morbid thoughts than simple immigration. Not that THAT’S a great thing to say. But I guess when I’m contemplating death or being left alone for the rest of my life because my bro dies, little stuff like pieces of paper from governments just don’t mean too much.

Been thinking I should allow myself to write a drama/tragedy. My head’s there a LOT. Just put it down. Let it out. It doesn’t have to go anywhere. I don’t have to try and get it done. But write it. On the other hand, I’m a bit concerned doing that would drag me down into it. When I get in the groove, I get in the groove. Live, sleep, eat, shit my stuff. Comedy is far better to go into like that. Drama or tragedy…I don’t know that I have the time to cry as much as I’d need to to get it out of me.

Deflection. Just watched a show last night where a character was talking to a shrink and made a joke. The shrink observed that humor, in that instance, was being used to deflect from the real hurt the character felt. That’s an idea I can sink my teeth into. I do it a lot. So much that in this particular instance, ‘a lot’ really should be written as one word: alot. I recognize a number of things. One, that using humor to deflect was taught to me. Two, that I didn’t get it for a long time and was accused of not having a sense of humor before the age of 20. And three, that anything can be a drama and anything can be a comedy, depending on the spin you put on it. That’s what it all comes down to: the way you look at it. The spin. AbFab is an excellent example. Edina is a bleeding horrible person, as is Patsy. They do it as a comedy, but it can easily be done the other way. Take out the bright colors in the wardrobe and the mugged faces they occasionally pull, and you’ve got a story of an abusive family being abusive. I’ve even see Saunders take it to the edge. In one episode, Edina gets so mad she throws a cup of yogurt. You can hear the audience gasp in shock at this display. It’s a moment of straight up rage tucked away in this comedy that takes everyone by surprise. So it’s all how you play it.

I guess I’m done playing my life as a drama or tragedy. I’d rather laugh, anyway. And sure, that’s deflection in process. It hurts to think on the words ‘abuse’ and ‘neglect’. It hurts to remember a lot of my past.

But I’ve always said: the best stories to tell are the worst stories to live through.

The Day The Music Died

I woke up yesterday with no anger and no headache. Should have been the warning sign I was looking for: obviously my body was tuned into something my mind wasn’t. All I have left is sorrow and emptiness.

As the saying goes, grab your ankles and kiss your ass good-bye. This is officially the beginning of the end.

I have begun the long task of culling through everyone I’m connected with on FB. Un-friending all the orange people (NOT the Dutch). First on my list was my eldest brother and his wife. My eldest brother, direct descendant (as am I) of a leading American socialist from the early 1900s. My eldest brother, who commented that ‘socialism is the politics of babies’.

I will never speak to him again.

I will never, in fact, use English on FB again. Only Dutch. Don’t care that I’ll have very little to say or that I might get it wrong. I’m not using English. And I refuse to switch to English out in the real world no matter how confused I get. I will NOT use the language of that manipulative narcissist. I want out. I want to burn my passport. I want to deny where I was born. I want to deny my entire family other than the bro I live with.

Even this blog, someday, will switch to all Dutch. For now, though, I don’t have enough of the language to explain myself clearly – which was the bleeding purpose of this blog in the first place. So for me, for my head, this will continue in English as long as I need it to. But communication with the larger world…that’s gonna be Dutch. Suck it if you don’t like it.

America has been ripe for a revolution for a long time. I really hope you guys get up and do something this time. I doubt it. I doubt your will. I doubt your resolve. I doubt everything about you because you’re American. And that’s racist. Well, you’re a racist nation. How’s it feel to know people hate you simple because of where you were born?

And I know. I know how it’ll go down. Already I’m reading the ‘it won’t really be that bad’ stuff. Get a grip. The Republicans have control of congress. Trump has a blank check to do anything he wants – grab pussy, imprison blacks, build the pipeline across sacred land, deport Muslims. Retrospectively, Hitler is gonna seem like a pussycat next to Trump. And this is just the beginning. Watch how right wing politicians sneak into office all over the world. Watch how persecution becomes common place. Watch your rights go up in smoke.

Watch the end of the world.

I always knew I’d witness it. The next, and possibly last, great war. Here it comes. Just one more tiny bubble to burst and the whole thing collapses. That should happen soon. It’ll hinge on currency markets. Wait for the drop.

So I’m smoking because why give it up if this is the end? It doesn’t matter. At least I’ll be high.

And fuck, do I need it!

I know some people might read this and shake their head. Think I’m some doomsayer. Good luck with that whole denial thing. Seems to be working for you so far. That is, after all, what got you to where you are today – about to crown the future emperor. He will sell you down the river. Trump is an 80s guy, and 80s guys only know how to make money one way: by destroying. The all important caveat is ‘anything for a buck’ (which could explain Trump’s abuse of women; he might have thought it was ‘anything for a fuck’).

Let me explain a basic economic FACT to you: for one person to have something, another must go without. Economists like to talk theory – theory – about unlimited supply. In other words, there’s always enough of whatever you need or want. That is not a true model for this world. In this world, everything is limited. Land space for homes, agricultural land for food, oil for energy, money to live. Therefore, for one to have a lot means many others go without. Trump is (reportedly, I don’t think he ever did release his tax forms like he said he would) rich. Therefore he cheated, lied, and stole that money away from others. I’m sure he did it to within the letter of the law (mostly). That’s your problem. The basic wrench in your system. You allow this behavior because you still hold out the hope that someday, somehow, you’ll be the rich one enjoying walking over everyone’s back. Oh, you tell yourself you’d be nice. Give the money away. Share it with friends and family. But chances are high once you had that money you’d want to hang onto it. That’s what typically happens. And those people with the real money, like Trump, they tell you it’s possible to make that leap from living paycheck to paycheck to uber rich. They even dubbed it ‘the American dream’ like it was their idea. But it’s not possible. Not unless you prove yourself to be as ruthless and amoral as they are. Hell, I don’t think they’d let you into the club (or even let you know where the club IS) unless you could claim to have ruined over 10,000 lives.

Let me ask you: how many workers have to go without health care for stock owners to get one more dollar in their dividend checks? That’s not a joke, nor do I have the answer. Just something for you to ponder.

I know the above is an old song. Showing my age again. But I can’t get the refrain out of my head. It is, after all, about a world gone wrong.

And it does feel like the day the music died.

Teaching an old dog new tricks

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My back is at the stage that I’m fine once I’m up and walking. It’s just the getting up that’s a problem. Takes me twenty or so steps before I can actually straighten up fully. Before then, I’m hobbling around bent over like a hunchback. Nighttime is intermittent pain and sleep.

That pain just drives everything else out if it’s bad enough. It stokes my anger, too. Damned bastard back! I think as it spasms yet again while I try to stand up just to take a pee. Anger is so much more proactive a feeling than sorrow.

Not that the anger sits with me for long. It just comes and goes, stabbing at me in random fashion.

Been thinking a lot about my family. My DNA-brother is trying to be understanding out on FB. Trying, and failing miserably. I feel I can’t trust any sentiment that might once have made me feel like he’s a real human being. He’s so cold. So wrapped up only in his life. So unable to actually CARE for another person. Just when I think he might have changed, he lets loose with something that tells me no, same old same old just with a new coat of paint.

I know the bigger and better part of me needs to see past all that stuff. Hear the pain hidden behind his words.

And there is so much pain in my family.

Normal for me growing up meant stuff like my brother’s reaction to death – which only made him sad because it served to remind him that he, himself, would die someday – was okay. He was fine; no reason not to feel that way. I wasn’t told that was a cold, hard reaction. I was told MY reaction was out of line. That I needed to understand him, not the other way around. Same with my sister: when she had an off day, the family walked on eggshells. The second child in the family dictated everyone’s behavior because goddess! Don’t set her off. Let her have her way. Don’t speak up, don’t defend yourself, don’t cause any more problems.

You know: normal.

Problem is, that wasn’t normal.

Like a caged animal, though, that’s what I was fed. I was the one that was wrong for feeling unloved, unsupported. Their push me-pull me actions were not the problem; everyone did that. Siblings did that. The lying, the back stabbing – all part of being a ‘loving family’.

Don’t get me wrong here. This isn’t a blame-bash session. This is a full understanding coming on me. This is a I get it down to my socks kind of feeling.

No wonder any sign of human kindness blows me away. I never got it from the one source everyone said you always got it from: my family. Or if I did, it would be there one day and snatched away the next, replaced by ridicule and shame, making me even more vulnerable.

They taught me not to trust.

What happens to a puppy you raise when you feed it with one hand and cut it with the other? It grows up into a mad dog, biting the hand that feeds it.

And I know if that happened to me, it happened to my siblings. I know that underneath all my DNA-brother’s bullshit and hateful language lies a lot of pain. That pain lies underneath all I hate about my sister, too. I hear echoes of it in my uncle’s words.

My family is mentally ill. Even the ones that don’t have some built-in chemical imbalance or whatever you want to blame for mental illness.

We were raised in cages. Cages of crazed behavior passed off as normal.

It wasn’t until I began writing out here that I really started to learn about the rainbow variety of mental health. I saw myself in so many people’s words. And I began to learn that my ups and downs weren’t the ‘norm’. Not everyone struggled the way the tribe did, despite the fact I’d been told ad infinitum that my problems were not unique and everybody had to go thru it. Still, it was hard to stop blaming myself. My mother taught me (and was no doubt taught by her mother) that discipline and iron will are the only things that can pull you through life. Just stop thinking that way, she’d say to me so many times. But for me, stopping my circular thoughts was impossible. I was weak for not being able to do it. Weak, on top of everything else. Wasn’t ’til I came out here that I began to acknowledge how strong you’ve got to be to do this.

The door is open. I had a dream as a kid about being in this huge house. A mansion, a castle. So many rooms, but no door leading outside. Only one, hidden in the basement. An old door I’d assumed was locked. But as I touched the doorknob, the door swung open. It had never been locked; it was always open.

Almost forty years on and I feel today like I finally understand that dream. That door – the way out of the madness I was raised in – was always available to me, always open and ready to walk through. I’ve just been too afraid to walk through it.

I feel like one of those rescued dogs you see on tv adverts. Half starved, barely able to stand, blinking against the light because it’s been in the dark for so long.

Now begins the long task of teaching this old dog new tricks.

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For Ulla: Because You Believed In Me

10 September 2016.

The following contains quotes from Ulla, aka Blah from Blahpolar Diaries, in italics. I have no hope of reaching the locutions I feel are needed to remember her, so I used quotes. She wouldn’t want anyone putting words into her mouth anyway.


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Beautiful, beautiful Ulla

Her death tastes like a handful of her medications: bitter. I gobble it down *gulp, gulp* in one bite but it chokes me and makes me sick.

“I believe that our tears honour our dead, but it’s got to be real.”

Oh, it’s real. Too fucking real. My brother suggested twice that the news may be some sort of sick joke. However much I hope to see an email from Ulla telling me that rumors of her death are largely exaggerated, I know I won’t see it. I knew it the moment I read the news: Blah is gone…

Are you still there? 5 September 2016, 06:53 a.m. That was my last message to her. I try to not think that the message came through too late. That I should have written it 24 hours earlier. I try not to think that it was there on time. That she saw it, and that her reply was her suicide: no, I’m not there.

“I’ve lost myself along the way and I’d like to find myself again, even if it’s just to say goodbye.”

Ulla may have felt lost, but she helped me find my way. She helped a lot of people. Through her ups and downs, her crazed periods and her vomiting, she kept us updated with her sharp observations and raw honesty.

“True compassion is rare and horribly underrated.”

Yes. And she had it in spades. She was always there when I cried help. She gave and gave, so much. If only she could have given as much to herself, I think. If only..

“Chief amongst the things I’m never going to write about in the memoir I’m never going to write, is a chapter I won’t be calling ‘Grandiose Schemes and Ensuing Fuck Ups’. Because ja….. If selective memory deletion ever becomes a thing, I’ll be trampling people on my way to the head of the queue.”

And I would say no, no, Ulla. Your memories make you who you are. I like who you are. And she would tell me she doesn’t but she loves me for saying it.

“So, tribe, how are you doing? We might be the only people who can ask each other that and just tell the truth. No pretence, no sinking feeling, no feelings of guilt when the truthful answer is, “up to shit” more often than not. Here we all are, intense and extreme people, people who other people often think have our heads up our asses, but here we are and we’re so fucking compassionate.There are days when this tribe – you – get me through it without me melting down completely. There’s a lot more I could say, but I won’t, because I’d fuck up my reputation for grouchiness. Seriously though, thank you.”

In the two years since she began her blog, we climbed on the Fuck Bipolar Train with Blah at the controls. Her acerbic wit drove us on as she stoked the fires with her dragon breath. But she never kidded anyone. Ulla didn’t want to die; she just didn’t want to keep living.

“I feel the need to preface my answer by telling you that this isn’t a threat, just a statement (a weather report, if you will) – I don’t want to be alive. Oh dear, I shouldn’t have said that, I should never say that. Yes I hear you…. It freaks you right out, it’s unfair on you, it breaks your heart, it’s not a rational conclusion, it’s selfish, it’s… It’s all of that and more and now you’re hurting too. Ah I’m sorry, I’m sorry. You care because you love me and I open up because I love you, but this particular conversation only ever has one conclusion. It causes you distress and me loneliness.”

It was – is – hard to read. I wonder if she left a note, but why? She left hundreds of pages of notes right here. How could she be more eloquent at the end, when it was so obvious that the deeper she sank into depression the less she wrote?

“I get very silent when I’m feeling very fucked.”

And silent she went.

“So I swallow the pills, keep regular hours, get some exercise and basically live (mostly) like a model fucking bipolar patient. All I can see of the future is a dim road to an unhappy death. I have one dream and that is to go quietly very fucking soon after my dog does.”

My uninformed mind is playing tricks on me now and imagining all sorts of horrible scenarios. The unexpected death of her dog, Solo, that drove her over the edge. Giving up on that dream and leaving Solo alone. Even taking Solo with her.

Who found her? How did she do it? Where will she be buried? All things I may never know.

“I don’t believe that the dead suffer, I strongly believe that the living dead suffer every single moment of their lives.”

A paradox, then. I love her enough to not want her to suffer, tho that means I suffer myself. I’m not sure I give that willingly. I hold it out with one hand, full of love, and snatch it back with the other, full of loss. She is right; I have become the living dead.

“Everybody dies and there’s no way of thinking about it without being sad, and we should be sad when someone we love dies, because they’re worth being sad about.”

Yes, you are worth it.

“I haven’t learned not to rail against the very concept of death forever. It’s inevitable and personally, I think I will welcome mine when it comes. I’m not remotely interested in immortality.”

You are immortal, Ulla, in what you gave me and each person you touched. Knowing I will never read another post from you, another message, another joke, is one of the most horrible truths I’ve had to face. But I aim to live up to what you said to me: “you’re stronger than I am”. Not because the universe needs some proof that you were right.

But because you believed in me.

Just me, and Ulla

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I must sound pretty damned bad to all of you. On top of every friend checking in with me three times a day, I’ve just received an invitation to like a psychiatric clinic’s blog. Someone sent that to ME. Found my email and specifically sent it to me. Like an anonymous card saying hey I know you’re nuts; let’s make pecan pie it was there. More welcome was an e card from my uncle. He’s got those things set for just about every holiday imaginable. But this one he did special for me in my grief. For every six times that man says something that makes me crazy, he does something like this that touches me deeply. But it’s my eldest brother, still living the the states, who takes my prize for Narcissistic Asshole Comment of the Year. I’ve made a few small posts on FB to get what support I could. He left a comment that yes, death is so sad because it makes us contemplate our own mortality. Our own mortality? Like I give a fuck if I drop over right now. I had to explain, like you would to a child, that no, what bothered me was trying to continue to get through this SHIT called life without my friend because the world is a slightly less loving place without her in it.

What an asshole.

When I read it, Ulla spoke up over my shoulder: he’s related to you? Yes, I replied, and this comment is nothing compared to what my sister would write. I wasn’t exaggerating, was I? And her ghost voice says no, you weren’t exaggerating.

I talk to her when no one’s around. Out loud. I know that’s crazy. If death is the end I’m talking to empty space and if it isn’t the end she doesn’t need to hear me say anything out loud, she just gets it. I know it’s nuts and I’m doing it anyway because it gives me a thin sheet of comfort for a short time.

She complains every time I turn on the jazz station, even if it’s Ella Fitzgerald singing. I told you I don’t like jazz, she says. Even Ella? I ask. C’mon, everybody loves Ella. I hear a groan in my head, her only reply to me. Yesterday we searched through my smart tv system looking for a film to watch. Anything she suggested I had already seen or didn’t want to see. Finally we stumbled across Mr. Nobbs and both of us settled down to watch. It was a beautiful film, and made me think of Ulla all the more. So much does. From the hazy morning sunrise to song lyrics; everything carries an extra poignancy right now. Everything is that bit more complex – the beauty of a sunrise marred by knowing her eyes haven’t seen it, song lyrics I wonder if she would have liked, films I’d like to know what she thought of.

Caught myself laughing last night at a comedy show. A good, hearty laugh. One that started because I forgot, then trailed off as I remembered…That first laugh is the hardest. You feel like you’re cheating death it’s due, like you’re disrespecting the person who’s gone. But you also know that the person you loved wouldn’t want you to mope around forever. They’d want you to laugh. So you let the laughter come, and it feels good to laugh, and when you’re done that hollow place inside you has a little less soul sucking ability.

Tomorrow is our day of remembrance. I’ve cobbled together something, a eulogy of my own – for lack of a better word. Not that I expect tomorrow to be my last post about Blah. You may hear that theme from me for quite a while and I make no apologies for it. I loved her. If you want to twist that into something it’s not, go ahead. I don’t care what you think. When I let people into my life, I let them all the way in. And I love them fiercely. I loved Ulla fiercely. Didn’t take long; the first time I was feeling angry and helpless and she wrote to me ‘So, who are we going to kill?’ probably cemented it. For as little as she wanted to share with most people, when she took you under her dragon’s wing you found that yes, she loved fiercely, too. Enemies were to be destroyed via sessions with syphilis dipped barbed wire dildos and you were always gently cared for, nurtured, petted, and given succor to face another day.

Such a beautiful dragon.

Such a beautiful person.

I can feel the deep wound of her loss beginning to heal. By next week I’ll be able to try going out in public. Still I may tear up, now and again. Still you may see the pain flash across my face when the sun strikes my eyes or a song hits its peak, and that may be something you see for some time to come. When asked what’s wrong I will shake my head and smile and say ‘Ulla’ and that will say it all for me. Leave the muggles in the dark; perhaps they don’t deserve to know what treasures lurk beneath their haughty gaze. Or perhaps, as I hope, I’ll be able to capture her essence in a piece of work. Something I’ll make public. No one will get it, of course. No one will know the references.

Just me, and Ulla.

Heartache

Four a.m. and I’ve recovered enough from my first day of tears to cry again. That’s how mourning goes; you cry until you can’t anymore, until your eyes feel like two tiny sandpits on your face. Then you sleep, because crying tires you out like nothing else. And you welcome sleep, please come, please take me away from this constant pain, but sleep only stays until you’re strong enough to cry again. Then you wake up at 4 in the morning and start tearing up because there is no staying in bed once you gain consciousness and remember what happened.

Been going thru all my old emails. Usually not cleaning my emails from my sent file is a weakness; too much of that and I’ll clog my computer brain up. Been happy for it lately. I have almost a year’s worth of messages from Blah – Blue – Ulla – to go back and read. It was not easy to see, time after time, her telling me how sad she felt, how nothing and greyed out and ick she was. But my eye was caught by her lols and rofls when I made a joke. I smiled at her jokes back to me. I took heart from the fact she told me our correspondence was important to her.

Tried to go back thru her blog, too. That was harder to do. Harder to read and just harder to navigate. I hope no one takes her words down.

Everyone is telling me it isn’t my fault. My brother has been hovering. My online friends are rallying.

I’m just in mourning. Deep mourning. I keep saying that, and still I hear about how she’s in a better place, how I made a positive difference in her life, etc. etc. I know all those things. And I wish I could get this all over with in one cry and be done with it. But I can’t. That’s not the kind of thing this is.

I took her as she was. I realize that now, after reading thru our correspondence. She gave me hints, bits of her past – a breakdown in 2012, the death of her mother, a brother in the UK, living at 55 different addresses – but she didn’t give away much. Invitations to talk more about these things were met with misdirection. How are you feeling? she’d ask me instead of answering. She told me hearing about my life helped her, that she didn’t want to go into any of it. That was something I understood, that some pain is just too deep to discuss. So I didn’t push her. She was a newly pressed person with me; no past to draw judgement from. Maybe that was refreshing. To not have to go thru it with one more person, to not have another person question this or that over her past. I never questioned her sorrow or depression. She was sad or depressed and to me, she had no reason not to be.

None of what she didn’t tell me would make any difference. I knew her from the now, from what she wrote about every day. The slog we all go thru. And that’s where we connected. That’s where we became friends.

Been reading other people’s words about Ulla. She meant so much to so many people. She corresponded with so many people. And she was always so quick to help each of us. Maybe that was her way of trying to help herself. I wish she could have seen how perfectly wonderful she was.

Trying to write something for her. Trying to make it great and failing, of course. So I’m putting aside great and just going for honest. I think she would appreciate that.

As for me…I made myself get up yesterday, did the dishes, made my bed, brushed my hair and washed the tears off my face. Sent a note to my language instructor that I won’t be in class today. Everything stops. For a little while. I’m still too weepy to do public. Another week of healing and I’ll give it a go.

I cry. Distract myself, or try to. Pick up five different things for two or three minutes at a time. Time moves so slowly. I went thru four days yesterday. And always that dullness in me. The lack of shine. The utter sluggishness. The headaches from crying.

The heartache from losing.

Eyes Wide Open

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Spent some real time thinking about my own words. With my new rules in place, I was able to think about myself in past tense and what I was going to leave behind without getting all caught up in who would actually show up to my wake. Unless I really do win the lottery, there’s not much I could leave behind. I mean, there’s my work – music and stories and poetry, oh my – but unless I leave it to a marketing guru it’ll do what it’s always done: sit there and get a bit of attention but nothing that would save anyone’s day – or life. I’m not sure if handing an heir my stuff so they can spend a lifetime facing rejection for a dead woman’s work is a good idea.

All I have is myself and my time. All I can afford to pass on right now is a smile and a kind word.

I hope it’s enough.

Goddess! I’m macabre again. Thinking about death. A little of that is a good thing. Too much is just too much.

I see the Netherlands has begun the trick of putting cancerous body parts on the front of tobacco packs. I’m sure that isn’t helping my mind set! This is the third country I’ve lived in that’s adopted that measure. Let me state this clearly: it doesn’t work. I’ve never witnessed ANY smoker ANYWHERE say they’re gonna give up smoking because of some gross and disturbing pictures on the packages. The only thing that kind of thing does is cement into our subconscious minds that THAT is what’s happening to our bodies. In a world where our expectations and thoughts shape our reality, that’s a damned foolish thing to do. All this is is a shock-jock advertisement. It’s disturbing and meant to throw fear into people.

Disgusting that people make money from doing shit like that.

Then again, I find a lot about human society disgusting. Seems humans always need to fight something. Sooner or later, man’s attention always turns to his fellow man. I guess there’s only so much mountain climbing, clear cutting, deep sea diving, and drilling a guy can do before he just needs to clobber somebody.

Or so it seems.

Maybe that makes the task I’ve set before me all the more important. Maybe in today’s world, it’s the smile and kind word passed on that’s worth a fortune rather than the six figure investment account.

I need to think that’s so. I need to believe I can pass on the meager gifts given to me by strangers. The help, the thoughtfulness, the kindness. And there’s a strange thing about those gifts: they’re the only ones that grow as you give them away. Hoard them, and you lose them. Give them out freely and you’ll never go without.

Now THAT’S something to remember!

My plans today are simple. I’m eyeing up the pile of dirty dishes by the sink that my brother didn’t bother to touch yesterday while I was out of the house and choosing to view it as his gift to me rather than a burden. I like a bit of routine and for better or worse circumstances in my life have led to dishwashing as part of my routine. So I’ll get a fair amount of dishwashing routine in today, since two days of stuff has built up. Then it’s exercise and fresh air, some Dutch – but keep it light because it IS the weekend, a shower, and music. I’m gonna delve into my machines and release the three songs I’ve created. Paperwork first. Recording music is a boring process. Everyone thinks that’s where the magic is, but it isn’t. It’s in writing and producing. Recording is ho-hum. First, write out the song. You gotta know when everything is going to come in or be silent. Then record in every track, which means you hear the song a LOT as the instruments build up. Next clean up the tracks – technical jiggery-pokery at it’s finest. That’s hours in headphones. Only when that’s all done does the fun start again. I can tell I’m in that mood to sit and dial the knobs back and forth over 3/96 of the song looking for the perfect cut point for each instrument. It’s not something I can DO every day. Takes a tremendous amount of willingness to just sit there and do the work.

It’s also inside work. Inside the house AND inside my mind. Cut off from the world. I love it, but I also recognize the inherent weakness in it. Go there too often and you risk complete isolation.

Oooooooh, yeah. Just re-read my blather and realized I am REALLY in that recording mood.

Okay. But a promise is a promise. I made a promise to myself about today, and I’m not gonna let myself down. I WILL get out of the house first. Maybe even take the metro out to the lake for something different. That sounds like a good idea. Take a 15 minute metro ride to a different area. Walk around the lake. It’s summer, for pete’s sake. Maybe I’ll even pick up a small treat for myself. A drink or something cool to combat the midday heat. I will NOT wear my shoes – my feet need out of the dungeon of orthopedics for a day. I’ll wear sandals, and let the sun and wind blow through my toes. That way I’ll be able to feel the sand when I hit the beach. Another summer sensation.

Along the way I’ll be distributing my gifts. A smile here, a hello there. A willingness to stop and try to converse. A willingness to just stop – to look, to talk, to think. And I’ll be searching. Searching for someone special, somewhere special, that I can help in some small way. Maybe I’ll find it and maybe I won’t. But I’ll look. Eyes wide open.

No more ghosts

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I walked. And watched the first two parts of Lord of the Rings. The two combined were enough to keep my mind from dwelling in the past or running off into the future. No tears this morning, tho an ‘oh, god’ escaped my lips at one point, a plea so poignant I could feel it in my toenails. Some days I just wanna stop.

Today I’ll hit the replay button. More walking, more diversionary films.

Tried to make music; there’s nothing in me. Nothing made me groove, nothing caught me, nothing came out. The uselessness of the exercise made me feel worse. So I walked away. Just put it aside and promised myself that yes, I can and will return to it and make music that takes my breath away – someday. That day just wasn’t yesterday.

I’m so bloody tired of this. Of waking up and feeling off. Of being haunted by my own head. Of fighting so goddamned hard. Especially since the pay off is often so meager; only the wisp of human kindness here and there, not big heapings of it. I want big heapings of it. Piles and piles of human kindness until I can’t take it anymore.

What can I say? There are still days I grab a can of whipped creme just to jamb the end in my mouth and squirt a huge pile of sweetened fat onto my tongue. Sometimes you need a little overload.

These days I’m looking for that daub of fat on my tongue. The smile from a random passer-by. A neighborhood cat friendly enough to rub against my leg. A bird courageous enough to sit at my feet when I’m breaking up bread. Anything. Anything to give me a connection, to make me feel like I’m really here. I live, I breathe. Other people see me. I am not a ghost.

And I’ve been lucky enough to get it. The woman who tapped me on my shoulder to give me back a card that had fallen out of my backpack. The bold coot who may have learned a trick or two at George’s feet down at the canal. Even yesterday, as I walked outside to see a sky that looked like Mordor itself was surrounding the building and ready to wage war, the sky parted and the sun came out. Okay, so it was a random atmospheric phenomena. My hungry soul took it as a sign, even though half of me thought it was silly to do so. I’m okay. Someone or something is looking out for me.

Having strange thoughts lately. I haven’t seen a cemetery here in Rotterdam yet, and I think I should seek one out. I need to talk to the dead. Yeah, I know how crazy that sounds. But I’ve always had this thing around burial grounds. Can’t really explain it; I just know that I need to find it again. And not every cemetery has what I need. Again, I can’t tell you WHAT it is. It’s a feeling. I’ll know it when I’ve found it.

My ongoing obsession with death and the macabre.

Yeah…this isn’t helping.

The longer I stay in the house, the stronger the force that holds me here gets. I know that. I can feel it.

Excursions. That’s what I need. Planned excursions, not just some loose idea to ‘go out for a walk’. Tomorrow is Amsterdam. That’ll get me up and out. The city is brutal, yes. It also gifts me the energy to take its brutality. Every vista fills me with enough succor to get to the next, no matter how tired my feet or aching my back. There is ancient magic there. I feel it every time I cross the city line. It is not a magic I could take full time. Not anymore. But I will swim in it for short periods, fill myself up with it and use it to my advantage. I will walk, and endure.

The rest of the week is another matter. I need to find things to do.

Things that make me feel alive.

I want to be HERE, in 3D, full color, with panorama sound. No halfsies. And no hiding. This time, I want to be seen. I want to be heard. I want people to get out of MY way for a change.

No more ghosts.